INTERNET ADVERTISING OUTFIT Google has bought Wildfire, an advertising company that helps businesses manage their social media strategies.
Google product management director Jason Miller posted in Google's blog on Tuesday that Wildfire will help Google users "manage their social efforts across their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads and promotions, all in one place".
The four-year old startup is used by brands such as the Virgin companies, Cirque du Soleil and Gilt Group.
Google said Wildfire's co-founders, Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard and the rest of the team will help by using its suite of advertising and analytical tools with an "ultimate goal [of] better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions".
Wildfire said it believes that over time integration with Google will lead to "a better platform for managing all digital media marketing".
A post on the Wildfire blog reads, "For now, we remain focused on helping brands run and measure their social engagement and ad campaigns across the entire web and across all social services - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more - and to deliver satisfying experiences for their consumers."
However, some speculate that Wildfire could serve as Google's Trojan horse into Facebook.
Google Analytics currently cannot connect to Facebook's, Twitter's or LinkedIn's APIs, so it cannot provide nuanced information on social interactions such as likes or shares. The Wildfire acquisition could help Google gather more valuable intelligence from those and other social interaction data sources.
Just how Google might employ the data that Wildfire gleans from social networks to help inform ads on its own sites or in its expansive ad network is not known.
Though Wildfire also manages efforts on Twitter, LinkedIn and elsewhere, a quick glance at its web site or recent research it has published reveals Wildfire's business model is particularly intertwined with Facebook.
Though Google expects Wildfire to continue to serve its clients in managing efforts on Facebook and elsewhere, some wonder whether Facebook could prevent Wildfire from connecting to its platform in the future, or simply make it more difficult to do so.
In the meantime, Wildfire will not be operating any differently because of the agreement with Google. "There will be no changes to our service and support for our customer," it said. µ